Tina McNeilly has worked at Fletcher International Export (Fletchers) just shy of 13 years but she never envisioned she’d be forging an enjoyable and rewarding career with the company when she first knocked on the door, she just needed some cash to tide her over.
“I’d been on the land all my life at Binnaway. I was working as a farmhand and money was getting a bit low so I came over for an interview and got a job in the cold boning room,” Tina said.
“When I got in there I though ‘Oh my God, this is not for me’. I was used to being out in the sun, around the cattle; farm life where it’s just you and the animals. Come here and there’s so many people and it’s so different and I thought I can’t do this, this is just not for me.
“Anyway, I stuck it out for a week, got the first pay cheque and I thought, ‘oh yeah, I’ll go for another week, then another week, before I knew it was two-and-a-half-years,” she said.
After a couple of years she said she was looking for a new challenge.
“I got transferred to the slaughter floor and I’ve been on the slaughter floor ever since,” Tina said.
“I was a senior labourer here for years and then Melissa Fletcher gave me a position as a training officer.
“I know all the jobs here on the slaughter floor, all the laboring jobs, so for me to be the training officer means that I know how things work. When I teach someone I can teach them exactly the way it should be done in a safe way, to hold the knife properly, sharpen the knives, and all that,” she said.
Even now she says she can’t believe the way her life has evolved, and all it took was that first knock on the door and then just showing up every day and working hard and smart.
She believes she was born to the training role.
“I break horses in so I am actually a trainer as in I train horses. The first couple of years I got here I thought yep, that’s what I want to be, I want to be a training officer,” Tina said.
“I love it, it’s something that I really love, I love teaching people.
“I didn’t have any qualifications, I didn’t know anything, I only did my Year 10 certificate, that’s all I did. I came here and they train you, they put you through TAFE or other qualifications. It’s expensive but Fletchers put me through it so that’s another thing that I’ve got now under my belt that I can take anywhere in Australia,” she said.
Now she’s keen to urge anyone who’s at a loose end or struggling to give the abattoirs a try.
“I had a rough bringing up, it was rough for me, I didn’t have a lot of brains, but here, they don’t care about that, it doesn’t matter if you’re struggling or anything, there’s always someone to talk to if you’re having a bad day, there’s always someone there that will get you through,” Tina said, relishing being in a role where she can mentor people from all walks of life.
Her passion is encouraging more women to have a crack at jobs still viewed as in the male domain.
“Melissa Fletcher’s given me a big opportunity now to help her get more women into this male-dominated industry. We need to get more women in here because we find women out here are really, really good workers, so I’m going to help Melissa build this up so any woman can walk in here and be a training officer, supervisor, production manager,” Tina said.